Willpower is the mental resource of our mind. It’s also our cognitive currency and strength. This post will cover all we would ever want and need to know about it.
Where There is a Will There is a Way
Will is a faculty of the mind which influences our decision making at any given moment by choosing the strongest desire from all various wants that are present. It’s like a scale directing our actions by tipping it towards one end of the other.
Willpower is our capacity of managing those decisions despite the influential factors and choosing to behave against them. It’s almost synonymous with characteristics such as self-control, discipline, determination, perseverance, drive etc.
However, that’s not the whole story. Willpower is the resource we use to cultivate those traits. It’s our mental reserve which allows us to delay gratification, change our behavior, control our thoughts and actions.
In essence, willpower is the ability to maintain our conscious will of the “self” for long periods of time and push it through adversity. Some have more of it and can continue despite the circumstances while others have less and give in quite easily.
Flex Your Mental Muscles
Willpower is like any other muscle in the body. Once tested it either gets stronger or weaker. By acting against our immediate desires and maintaining our will we’re getting stronger and it’ll be easier the next time. The same principle applies to the polar opposite when we quit – our mental muscles begin to deteriorate and it’s more likely to happen again as our proficiency has dropped. Like with all other things we do, it reflects what we do habitually. As we do anything so will we do everything.
Having a strong willpower is something we should all want for. It benefits every area of our life by giving us more mental resources and not lack perseverance. While it definitely cultivates mental toughness – the ability to resist and persist – it’s not only about that.
Because willpower is a resource it can also be depleted. This currency is limited and we can’t indefinitely tax ourselves with its use. Like with any other muscle, it will eventually reach a point of failure. Every decision made and act of discipline drain us and empty our stores. Larger reserves will also give us more cognitive freedom. By having abundant supplies we have more to play around with. Rather than being constantly weakened we’ll be able to avoid mental fatigue.
Therefore, we want our willpower to be as strong as possible and put it through enough stimulus to force it to grow – it’s like that with any physical exercise. To become better we need to put stress on the muscles which during rest will then increase in size. That’s why it’s advisable to continuously work on improving it like we would train any other part of our body. In order to create an iron mind we need to put it through situations that test it
The process of training one’s willpower goes as follows.
- Deliberately start doing something that requires effort. – Whether that be working out or reading, whatever it is that you don’t want to do. If you do it with no motivation then your willpower will strengthen twice as fast.
- Encounter the first signs of resistance. – It will become uncomfortable as our body and mind try to escape the situation. This is good – meaning that the stimulus is starting to take effect. Without the feeling of resistance we won’t be able to tap into our willpower reserves and use discipline.
- Persist through. – Our initial response is to immediately give in once things get tougher. This is the most important moment, as it will dictate the outcome and results of the exercise. Moreover, it will decide the rest of your life as well. The key is to keep at it and not give in. It’s also the hardest part of training. Once overcome everything will start to flow. After this first obstacle it will get easier.
- Expand our boundaries. – If we managed to endure through the first signs of discomfort and push through it we have exited our comfort and entered the growth zone. This is the place where our limitations are broken and progress made. Having come this far we are able to go even further. In order for the exercise to take effect we need to not only arrive at this point but also dwell in it for a certain amount of time. We want to broaden our comfort zone so that we will be more than adequate in situations that require willpower.
- Reach saturation. – The point where our willpower will be exceeded after the initial response is quite high. We can keep doing the uncomfortable activity for a lot longer but it won’t increase in effect. The hardest point has been surpassed – everything is downhill from here. Exiting the comfort zone is where willpower is built. In the growth zone we are simply expanding it.
- Keep at it a bit longer. – Despite the low level of effect from this point onward it’s still beneficial to continue doing the unpleasant activity. In the case of willpower more is definitely better. This will condition us to always put in the extra effort and take an additional step. Also, it might be the case that our mind is simply playing a trick on us. To ensure that we will get the most out of our discipline it’s best if we continue for a little bit, just in case.
- Finish when it’s enough. – If we feel that whatever we were doing no longer has a negative effect on us we can stop. Enough stimulus has been put on our body and mind as we have managed to strengthen our willpower. Next time resistance will still be encountered but it will be overcome a lot quicker. It will always be there but it won’t seem that insurmountable.
- Replenish our resources. – Like with any muscle the actual growth happens during rest. The same thing applies to willpower. After exerting ourselves we need to recover from the training in order to come back stronger the next time. This means sleeping(how to sleep like a baby) and straying from unnecessary effort. We’ve put ourselves through something exhausting and can now have our well deserved rest.
- Repeat the process. – If we want the effects to be permanent then we need to constantly keep putting enough stimulus on our willpower. Otherwise the strength we’ve built will waste away. Rather than seeing a destination to be reached think of it as journey with no final destination. Despite our high levels of discipline we ought to still pursue cultivating it even further. Then literally nothing will be able to prevent us from doing what we’re supposed to do. Resistance becomes something that is a part of our activities but has no significant effect on the outcome.
The stronger our willpower the more is achievable. By having a steadfast mind and confidence in our abilities we know that any task set can and will be completed. Impossible literally becomes a word.
In our willpower training we want to arrive at a point where we aren’t required to use discipline to do the things we’re supposed to do. Instead of having to go through the process all the time it becomes second nature to us. That’s when we’ve made it a habitual part of ourselves. However, just for the sake of conditioning we still ought to go through some training to not get comfortable or content for too long.
Here are a few exercises that will train and strengthen your willpower.
- Commit to something. Make a decision that requires willpower to fulfill and at the same time benefits your life. Change a habit, pick up speed reading, do cold thermogenesis every day, meditate, always be in control of your thoughts and emotions – whatever it might be. The point is to pick something and stick to it just for the sake of training. This way we’ll never stop adapting and always be putting 1% more effort into our activities.
- Write down what you’re going to do. There’s a lot of power in putting things down on paper. If we write things down they begin to affect us on a subconscious level. This we can use to our advantage when strengthening our willpower. At the start of each day make a list of the things that you want to do. This way we will inevitably work harder towards accomplishing them. Read for 2 hours, practice meditation, put yourself in uncomfortable situations, do X amount of reps while working out etc. Anything that has been put down on that piece of paper will be completed no matter what. Otherwise we won’t be able to trust ourselves.
- Resist and persist. The key notion of a strong willpower is maintaining a strong will. It’s the ability to push off immediate gratification and marching onward despite the desire to stop. This is incredibly important for everything else in life as well. If we give up after the first signs of resistance we won’t make any progress. Willpower enables us to soldier through all adversity. Like Winston Churchill said: “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” What we need to do is face fear and manifest our inner lion. This is what separates the great from the crowd of mediocrity.
Because this mental resource is incredibly precious to our decision making we don’t want to waste it. In order to not enter a weakened state of low willpower we have to be very conscious of how we use this currency. Rather than taxing out right away we need to be wise about this.
After a good night’s sleep our willpower reserve is full. Our mind has recovered from yesterday and is fully rejuvenated. This allows us to approach the upcoming day with vigor and take massive action towards anything we want to achieve.
How we begin our morning dictates the course of the rest of the day. To have an empowering day we have to be careful with what we do. The mind is like a sponge and it begins to dwell upon everything we feed it. Our thoughts and actions directly influence what we think and do for the coming hours.
Managing our willpower reserve is a lot more important than that. Because a lot of people get overstimulated by the paradox of choice they become paralyzed by it and fall of the rails, so to say. After taxing out with their currency they’re rational self loses control and the floodgates open up.
There are several ways we can preserve our willpower that would allow us to remain conscious.
- Make less decisions. – If we avoid tapping into our willpower reserves then we have more resources readily available to us. This is easily achievable by decluttering and minimalizing our lives so that we won’t have to constantly make decisions.
- Incorporate automation. – Willpower is taxed only when we’re faced with a choice. The draining effect occurs when we’re contemplating over the good and bad. Figuratively speaking, when we arrive at a crossroads. Which path to follow is mentally exhausting and is made even worse when there are several routes to take. However, if there’s only a straight line or we know where we’re going then we are free from having to make a decision. There are a lot of things we can do habitually without having to think about them. Know what you’re going to wear and eat without having to think about it in advance. Become a minimalist in everything. This opens up a lot of free space for our thoughts to dwell upon and focus on much more important tasks.
- Establish a steadfast daily routine. – By following things habitually we won’t have to think about doing them. If we always take a cold shower in the morning then we wont have to waste our time thinking about whether we should take one or not. It’s part of the daily routine and thus non-negotiable. Additionally, by always eating dinner at the same time of the day we are preventing ourselves from thinking about it etc. Everything happens automatically and makes things flow. This prevents us from becoming bored and making bad decisions. To accomplish this we need to imagine what our perfect day would look like and act accordingly. It might take some time for the motions to become embedded into our consciousness but eventually it will happen.
By having to make less decisions we are making our life more productive. If we exert our willpower on trivial things we will be left unarmed when encountering the truly important ones that actually matter. The paradox of choice has the possibility to paralyze us. The less we have to choose the happier we will actually be. Decluttering also enables us to achieve more with less time and become more creative.
Get an Iron Body and Mind
In conclusion, willpower is one of our most precious resources. It’s our mental currency that enables us to resist and persist. Like any other muscle it can be trained and is conditioned by what we think and do. Having an iron mind will allow us to do anything and will benefit every area of our life as well.
Having a strong willpower is a part of Becoming a Self-Empowered Being because it makes us reign supreme over our mental faculties and be in control of how we use our inner currents of energy.
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